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NASCAR Cup Series Season Reviews | Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing

After a 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season in which all four Stewart-Haas Racing cars made the playoffs, the hopes were high for this team going coming into 2021. Veteran driver Kevin Harvick won nine races last year and was the regular-season champion. Cole Custer was a race winner in his rookie Cup Series season, and both Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer were able to point their ways in. SHR’s 2020 success failed to carry over to this year’s NASCAR Cup Series campaign. In actuality, things went much worse than expected. In the final year running the Generation 6 cars, the bottom seemed to fall out for Stewart-Haas Racing.

The following article marks the start of a FlurrySports series that will look back on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season from the perspective of drivers and race teams. Read on for season reviews for the two veteran Stewart-Haas Racing drivers,Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola.

Kevin Harvick NASCAR Cup Series 2021 season reviews Stewart-Haas Racing
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

NASCAR Cup Series 2021 Season Reviews | Stewart-Haas Racing (Part I)

Kevin Harvick — No. 4

Kevin Harvick came into the year with extremely high hopes of getting back to the Championship 4 after missing out last season by a single point. Harvick started out 2021 strong with a top-five finish in the Daytona 500 and two sixth-place finishes at the Daytona Road Course and Homestead-Miami hopes. Optimism remained high in the No. 4 camp through the month of February. The excitement kind of got derailed after three finishes outside the top-10 in his next six races. Harvick was able to finish strong at both Talladega and Kansas with fourth and second-place finishes, respectively. He picked up two more sixth-place finishes in the next two races.

Kevin Harvick Remains Winless Going into Summer Portion of Calendar

While the solid results were promising, the fact that the same driver who won nine NASCAR Cup series races a season ago remained winless garnered a lot of attention around the sport. Disappointing efforts from his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates only added to the concern. Harvick had some trouble of his own at Circuit of the Americas. He couldn’t see in the rainy conditions and had his race cut short when he was rear-ended.

Harvick would have solid finishes all the way through the Olympic break, except in the road course events at Road America and Sonoma. He was able to lead for much of the race at New Hampshire but fell apart late and wound up sixth.

Harvick’s Consistency Leads to Playoff Berth

When the NASCAR Cup Series returned at Watkins Glen following the Olympic hiatus, Harvick scored what would ultimately be his final top-10 finish of the regular season. He finished eighth at the Glen to build momentum ahead of another new road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After playing the conservative game throughout the Verizon 200 at The Brickyard and the Michigan race, he was able to successfully qualify for the playoffs on points. In the regular-season finale at Daytona, Harvick was making a run for the win until he was caught up in Daniel Suarez and Kurt Busch’s wreck on the final lap.

Lack of Wins, Playoff Points Leads to No. 16 Seed

Kevin Harvick started the playoffs seeded 16th out of the 16 drivers who qualified. The failure of the No. 4 team to win any races or garner extra playoff points via stage wins throughout the season hurt their initial postseason standing drastically.

Harvick would start the playoffs strong with a pair of top-10 showings at Darlington and Richmond. In the cut-off race at Bristol, he was leading late in the race, but fell victim to some Chase Elliott shenanigans and had to settle for second. Nonetheless, his strong showings in all three Round of 16 races saw him move on to the Round of 12.

Playoff Run Comes to an End as Feud with Chase Elliott Heats Up

At Las Vegas and Talladega, Kevin Harvick impressed yet again by posting two more top-10 results. However, with the playoff field whittled to 12, he still had plenty of work to do if he was to advance on to the Round of 8. What started out as a promising day at the Charlotte ROVAL went south in a hurry. After moving Chase Elliott out of the way early on in the final stage, Elliott had his sights set on retaliation on a late restart. Harvick put himself in the wall and ended his day and hopes of advancing on in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The No. 4 team still finished out the 2021 season strong with two more top-5s and three top-10s.

Kevin Harvick Sees Win Streak End in Disappointing 2021 Season

This was Kevin Harvick’s first winless season in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2009. He completed all, but 50 laps run in the series on the year with 35 of those missed coming as a result of the COTA incident. He had ten top-5 finishes, 24 top-10s and an average finish of 10.9 on the year. Harvick will be back in the new Next-Gen Car hoping to be at the forefront of a Stewart-Haas Racing resurgence. Of course, for a driver of his caliber, that means scoring the win(s) that eluded him in 2021.

Aric Almirola NASCAR Cup Series season review offseason recap Stewart-Haas Racing
Credit: Nick Was/AP Photo

Aric Almirola — No. 10

Aric Almirola had a red-hot stretch during the summer portion of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. It ultimately just fell flat towards the end of the year and resulted in him failing to make a deep playoff run. The No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team was hoping to have better luck in 2021. In the first four races, however, it was anything but good luck for Almirola.

Three of those four races saw him finish 30th or worse. The outlier to that sub-30 statistic was a mediocre 17th on the Daytona Road Course. The No. 10 team did not even score their first top-10 until the quarter mark of the season at Richmond. After a 15th-place finish at one of his best tracks in Talladega, Aric Almirola would not finish above 22nd until NASCAR’s return to Nashville Superspeedway in June. His first top-5 of the year came on Father’s Day in the Music City where he finished fourth. He kind of fell off again after that until New Hampshire.

Aric Almirola Stuns the Field with New Hampshire Victory

In a season where seemingly no day was his, Almirola found the golden ticket he was looking for on the one-mile Loudon oval. Winless on the season as an organization up to that point, Stewart-Haas Racing shocked the NASCAR Cup Series world as Almirola earned his first win since Talladega in 2018. Despite what could only be described as a miserable 2021 season up to that point, Almirola’s New Hampshire win automatically locked him into the NASCAR Playoffs. Leading up to the playoffs he finished between 14th and 19th in each of the remaining races.

Almirola Qualifies for NASCAR Playoffs as the 12-Seed

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 team went into the playoffs seeded 12th of the 16 drivers who qualified. After a 16th-place finish at Darlington in the Southern 500 to kick off the postseason, the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 finished 14th at Richmond. Although neither finish was terrific, the struggles of other playoff drivers saw Almirola sitting above the cutline heading into the Round of 16 finale at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The team overcame major adversity with a broken oil line belt midway through the race to give Almirola a chance to advance. He gave it all he had, but the No. 10 car simply lacked speed deep into the final long run. William Byron’s third-place finish would knock Almirola out of the postseason and officially end his longshot championship hopes.

Top-10 Finishes to End Season Help Build Momentum for 2022

The next six races would be more of the same mediocre results for the SHR veteran. Aric Almirola did close out the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season in impressive fashion though. He wound up sixth at both Martinsville and Phoenix to at least give him some momentum heading into the NASCAR offseason.

Almirola is undoubtedly hoping for a better season next year. With just one win, two top-5s and five top-10s in 2021, the consistency was not there compared to a season ago. Both the driver and Stewart-Haas Racing are capable of better overall results. Almirola will be back in the No. 10 car next season and aiming to notch his fourth career NASCAR Cup Series win.

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